Calling in the Maintenance Crew! And My Top 5 Swear-By's!
If losing weight were easy, two out of three AMericans would not be overweight, and one out of three would not be obese (not to mention - I would not have a job). But wanna know the only thing more difficult than losing weight? Keeping it off!
So you've lost the weight, started feeling the benefits of an increase in overall health - your risk for hypertension, hyperlipidemia, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, osteoarthritis, cancer and, well, premature death, has gone waaaay down. What now? Reward yourself with a few months off from the gym and eat all the ice cream you can fit into your fridge? Okay that does sound fun...but trust me, it's not worth the agony you're gonna feel when you go into sugar shock later. Sugar shock = very annoying to other people = social isolation = too many nights home alone with nothing to do but drown your sorrows in more ice cream while watching horrible SNL reruns. Who wants THAT?! *shudder* So! What can you do to keep all that weight off you worked so hard to lose in the first place? I'll tell you what - those people who have been successful in doing just that have done it by knowing a few secrets and by doing what's necessary to make healthy lifestyle changes. Some of these things are insanely intuitive, and some would not have come to mind, but all of the below are crucial to maintaining your fitness gains. We are training for life, my friends. And life does not take breaks!
Quality of Intake - The better the quality of your food intake, the more likely you are to maintain lost weight. By "quality" I'm talking about what you already know - veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat (or no-fat) dairy.
Low Variety of Calorically Dense Food - In other words, eat a low amount of high-calorie foods. These are foods that, ounce for ounce, pack a wallop of useless calories and still probably don't leave you feeling full. For example, although raisins are not all that bad, they will pack more of a calorie punch than will an identical weight of grapes. Editors Note: This is because grapes are wonderful...grapes make wine and wine is neat! Grapes For President!!
Face-to-Face Accountability - Of course you probably figure that I'm making this one up since I'm a trainer, but I didn't! Studies show that people who attempt to maintain their weight do better when they have face-to-face accountability. The "accountant," though, doesn't have to be a fitness trainer. But it does need to be someone to whom the maintainer will be accountable.
Low Television Viewing - Television is a wonderful invention, don't get me wrong. However when it comes to maintaining weight, TV is counterproductive (unless you've popped in a workout dvd, then go for it!) in that we are all most likely very sedentary when watching it. What's more, our brains are passive and we can often mindlessly eat while shouting at Jeff Foxworthy that we are smarter than a 5th grader and we totally could have kicked butt on his show. Our TV watching is also crowding out the hours during which we might otherwise be moving our bodies in chores or exercise.
Physically Active Lifestyle - This just makes sense no matter how you look at it. It's all about calories in vs. calories out. The more active a maintainer is, the more likely he or she is going to burn more calories to off-set what they're taking in.
Eating Breakfast - You should have known this was in here somewhere. Eating breakfast "revs" up your metabolism and lessens the possibility that you'll snack on something awful by mid-morning. Breakfast also gives us the energy to keep active during the morning hours. EAT YOUR WHEATIES! (After making sure they are whole-grain, that is.)
Regular Meal Rhythm - A fancy way of saying that eating three or more square meals a day is more likely to keep us from getting to that starving point where we overeat when we do get food in front of us. Snacking is cool, binging is not.
Control of Overeating - Much like the above, this is another way to say "eat mindfully" and without distraction (tell Jeff Foxworthy goodbye). Learn to be tuned in to when you're actually full and you'll be less likely to overeat.
Internal Motivation to Lost Weight - Oooh this one's big. Remember, it was you who decided to lose weight, make a change, and get healthy. It was not your spouse, your parent or even the doctor. It was you. You didn't lose the weight because someone wanted you to. Hold on to that internal motivation and remind yourself that you deserve to be healthy.
Ability to Handle Stress - For us stress eaters, it's important to learn how to know when you're eating because you're hungry and when you're eating because there is some crazy emotional charge behind it. In this busy world, often it's stress that drives us to reach for the damn cookies that our co-workers bring into the office. Learn how to identify this and cope with stress another way - take a walk, drink some tea, chat it out for 15 minutes. But tell that cookie pusher to stop with the cookie ambush!
Monitored Intake of Fat - In addition to counting calories, you also need to keep track of your fat intake (see a couple blog entries down for good fat vs. bad fat). Why? Because gram-for-gram, fat has more than twice as many calories as carbs or proteins.
Consistent Eating Pattern Across Weekdays and Weekends - Don't eat celery Monday through Friday and then party like a rockstar on Saturday and Sunday with doughnuts, fast food, fried foods, ice cream, cakes, cookies, etc. Do treat yourself once in a while but don't make a weekend out of it.
Smaller Portions of High Energy-Dense Foods - Yes, it's okay to eat most foods out there, but limit the portion sizes. Eat the foods you love; don't deprive yourself or you'll give in later and consume that fridge full of ice cream again. So when you want that junk food, eat it, but make sure to eat just a bit of it. Lots of treats come in 100 calorie packages now and those are perfect!
Forgive Yourself - Ever had a guilty moment? Of course you have, we've all been there. If you overeat or don't get your workout in, don't dwell on it. Tell yourself you'll get back on track tomorrow, and MEAN IT. After all, every day is a new day, that's a beautiful fact of life!
Speaking of workouts - recently I was asked what I do at the gym to stay fit. Honestly, just as I don't give my clients the same workout twice, I train myself in much the same manner. I get bored easily, my mind wanders and I don't have a lot of time. Sound like someone you know? But with that said, there are a few key, no-fail exercises that I do weekly because they deliver results fast and are incredibly efficient. Thus they have become my absolute favorites. When they get too easy for me I vary up either the resistance, the terrain, or my technique. So here they are, my Top 5 Swear-By's!
Love these babies! Why? Because they work your quads and hamstrings at the same time, make your back end look fierce, and every time you go back to do them you'll find your form improves a little bit. Once they get to easy, add an uneven surface and lunge forward on it. Or put a step or bench behind you and do backwards lunges with your back foot on top of it. Options are seriously endless here!
Lie on your back and lift your bum off the floor with your feet solid on the ground. Perfect for your butt and lower abs, even your lower back. Feel like a cake walk? Add a stability ball and do them with your feet and calves on top of the ball. Or do them as normal but kick up one leg as you lift off the ground. You can also place a towel between your knees for an inner thigh burn.
Overhead Shoulder Press
Especially important for maintaining good posture, shoulder presses are often the forgotten exercise but can really be very effective. Start with a weight you can do 12 repititions with. Once that gets too easy, increase the weight. You can also do these while sitting on a stability ball, which adds a little work to your core.
Bicep Curls w/ Outer Leg Lift
I like to combine exercises so I have to work twice as hard and burn twice the calories. Perform a normal biceps curl and while you're curling up, lift one leg out to the side. Alternate legs. Multi-tasking just took on a whole knew meaning!
Punches w/ Dumbbells
Jab, Jab, and Cross with 3 to 8 lb dumbbells to give your arms a scultped look and feel strong. Add uppercuts, hooks, whatever you want. This is your time to picture your boss's head floating around in front of you. Kicking is a plus! These are very popular with my female clients!
That's all for this installment. Keep up the healthy work!